Learning from a Game of Ball!

Posted on July 31, 2007


I was part of the TD Meet from 16th -18th July. I am going to talk about an experience I had on Day 0 while we were all at Riverside School for the “no-agenda-day”.

It was a beautiful morning, the sun was out, the breeze was thin and cool. And the team of thirteen was given a task. There was a volleyball and there were thirteen of us. The idea was to keep the ball in the air for 100 counts in a row. When we began, we were not able to keep it in the air for more than 20 counts. There was lot of talk about strategies, what to do, who should be inside, who should be outside, the force with which one ought to touch the ball, how to pass the ball to another person, etc. It was 11 AM and all of us were drenched in sweat, so we decided that we would play later and finish the task! And Sridhar added as we were about to move inside, “we will not leave till we achieve this!”. We all laughed as we walked towards the shade.

During the game, I did feel at some points, that we would not achieve the target of a hundred counts. The reasons in my mind were more believable than the gut that told me, “I want to achieve this.” It was at this point, that there was a discussion about the 4-minute mile. I had not known about it till this day. Apparently, till the first person broke the 4-minute mile barrier, no one believed that it was possible. But soon after he did break the barrier and ran it in less than 4 minutes, it was broken many times over in a short span of time. It made me think!

This thinking made me reflect more when we discussed the Personal Mastery Chapter from “The Fifth Discipline.” It said that when we are unable to achieve our goals, there are two ways of dealing with it. The first way is to re-set the goal to something achievable. The second way, is to constantly reflect as to ” what am I doing wrong”. It went to another layer, it said that sometimes we don’t do anything apparent to make things go wrong, but there maybe very subtle things in our behaviour or attitude at a subliminal level which affect our actions and also that of others.

When we went back to the game at the end of the day, it was because Sridhar reminded us that we had made a promise to finish it before we left. And we all got to it. It took us a while to get into the groove. But everything was so much clearer to me now. Again, we bantered about strategy, about too many people, about everything else, only now, we all believed that we would be able to break the 100-count barrier. It was not easy, for almost 20 minutes we kept at it, and no matter what we did, the goal eluded us.

During the break, 5 of us tried to do it (instead of the 13 of us) and we managed to do it at the first go! So we said that we have achieved it, “hurrah!” and Sridhar said, “No way, we all have to do it, the challenge is for all of us to get there”. But now, the 5 of us believed that it was possible and we jubilantly shared the joy with the others. Somewhere they began to believe that it was possible. And lo! In the next ten minutes, we achieved the goal with the entire team participating! What a way to end the day!

My learnings were manifold:
1) How would I have felt had we left without playing at all?
2)How would I have felt had we played, and still not achieved the target?
3)To achieve anything, we have to believe and keep going.
4)At EI too, we have goals and we have to walk the distance. Sometimes it takes longer, sometimes we fail. But there will be people who are convinced, who are able to convince others, who in turn will take that belief to the entire organization, and make every dream a reality and every goal a stepping stone to bigger ones!
5)At EI, we are not allowed to give up on ourselves or the company!

The last ten months have been a blast! With so much self-awareness and learning, no one can stop me, even if today I feel that the road is too long and the goal is not achievable!

Ekta Hattangady (for Inside EI: Aug 1st)

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